Arkansas Football: 5 Things Razorbacks Must Improve Before Auburn Game
Let's be completely honest with ourselves: The Arkansas Razorbacks have just been plain bad since starting the season 3-0.
There's not just one guy or one unit that is to blame. There has been poor play in a lot of areas and it has resulted in some very lopsided losses recently. In fact, in the Hogs' last three games, they've been outscored 134-17.
The defense has regressed staggeringly and the offense has been vanilla.
Head coach Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks were off this weekend, giving them two weeks to prepare for an Auburn Tigers squad that has been a huge surprise. It comes at a good time, because Lord knows this team needs the extra practice.
But what things do the Hogs need to work on the most before next Saturday?
Here are the areas Arkansas needs to work on most before Auburn comes to town. There are a lot of issues right now and we'd be here all day if we tried to name them, so we've condensed the problems into the five biggest.
The items on this list have been the most pressing issues thus far in the 2013 campaign and need to be addressed first with the extra practice.
Let's take a look at which problems have come to the forefront and need quick fixing.
It's been a problem all season and Alabama capitalized on many missed tackles—most notably on Kenyan Drake's 46-yard touchdown run during which he made four Hogs miss.
We're not talking about anything complicated here. This is fundamental stuff that shouldn't be happening eight games into the season. Sometimes getting back to the basics is the best thing you can do when reeling.
If that means Bielema getting on the practice field and demonstrating the proper wrapping-up technique like they do in peewee football, then so be it.
The defense as a whole must start tackling better or opponents will continue to make big plays. It seems silly that we're talking about this in late October, but that's the reality of the situation.
Starting quarterback Brandon Allen's struggles have been well-documented this year. Whether it's been his accuracy, decision-making or overall demeanor, Allen has struggled mightily.
His accuracy has been the biggest problem. On the season, Allen has completed just 44.9 percent of his passes and isn't even in the top 100 nationally in completion percentage. Yes, he's dealt with a shoulder injury nearly all year, but that excuse can only go so far.
The only reason Allen has even remained the starter this long is because Arkansas doesn't have anyone behind him that has shown enough to take his spot.
Auburn is 104th in the FBS in yards per game allowed through the air at 267, so Allen is going to have opportunities to make plays next weekend. It's going to really say a lot about him if he can't even complete 50 percent of his passes.
He needs to use the extra time to work on timing his passes better and placing the ball where it needs to be. Every day, Allen needs to be throwing at least 50 passes because he's been all over the place.
Practice makes perfect, right? Right?
Don't let the Hogs' ranking of 40th in the country in passing yards per game allowed (216.3) fool you. Arkansas has had tons of trouble stopping the pass.
Once the competition level stepped up, the secondary started its fall.
Over a four-game stretch from Sept. 21 to Oct. 12, the Razorbacks gave up 1,107 yards (276.8 YPG) and couldn't have stopped a pass if there had been one receiver on the field. Okay, maybe that's a little much, but it's been pretty bad.
Against Alabama, the secondary gave up just 180 yards to AJ McCarron. However, that's because McCarron didn't have to do much, as the Crimson Tide racked up 352 yards on the ground.
The secondary can use this time to work on playing up on opposing receivers and being more physical. Guys have been backpedaling and providing way too much cushion for receivers to get open. If you're going to play man coverage, you have to have corners as well as linebackers that can play right up on receivers.
Auburn is only throwing for 195.6 YPG (97th FBS), but with Gus Malzahn as the head coach, you better believe the Tigers will feast on the Hogs' secondary if it can't make plays.
Turnovers are another very fundamental thing that can result in losses if you end up on the wrong side of them.
Arkansas is tied for 72nd in the country with 14 turnovers lost. Seven of them have come from the arm of Allen, while the other seven have come from coughing the ball up.
A big part of the turnover problem ties into Allen's decision-making. He has a bad habit of trying to force throws to receivers that are not open. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is nearly one-to-one. He still has a long way to go as far as understanding pass coverages.
The Razorbacks have also put the ball on the ground 13 times, losing it seven times. There really is an easy way to fix players fumbling the ball, and it's called the bench.
Bielema can take it a step further by running fumbling players hard in practice. Arkansas has to get the fundamentals down before it can think of taking the next step.
Confidence. Swagger. These are things that good teams always have.
The Razorbacks? Not so much.
The Hogs showed some in the first three games, but since then, they've showed no signs of confidence that they can go out on the field and execute the game plan. It seems that the Razorbacks are coming into games expecting to lose.
If a team doesn't have confidence in what it's doing, it stands no chance of winning football games—especially in the SEC.
Arkansas has to get some swagger back and show that it has the mindset to play a full four quarters of hard-nosed, tough football. If you had to gauge the Razorbacks' confidence level right now on a scale of one to 10, it would probably be a two.
Going forward, if the Hogs cannot get their confidence back and fix the other problems listed, a 3-8 record and winless SEC season are all but guarantees.
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